Guess Who

…has two thumbs and just won the 2012 Moroney Postal Award for an outstanding and significant contribution to Postal scholarship?


I submitted my Master’s thesis almost two years ago and got notified yesterday that I won the junior prize for 2012.  What do I win???  $1,000!  Yes, that is a comma.

I’m so excited and proud.  I knew my ideas were good even if I couldn’t find another person who thought they were interesting.  My dad said he might even have to read it now.  Yessss!  On my bucket list is to get published, so maybe one day I’ll expand on my now award winning thesis and have my name permanently in black and white.  Right now I’m enjoying rolling in my $1,000…as soon as they send the check.

Oscar Worthy

My brother, Super Rad, just graduated from film school.  I am so crazy proud of him.  I flew up to his place for a few days to see his movie premier and hang out.  I haven’t seen him in about a year, and he’s gotten out the Army, moved, and gone back to school since then.

He is super freaking talented!!  His passion is writing screenplays, but in the final movies he wrote a few, directed at least one, acted in two, edited several, and sang for another.  That’s just crazy.  He’s always been into music, and I knew he was decent at it, but he is so stinkin’ creative and artistic.  He’s an incredibly funny guy, but the movies he wrote and acted in were dark.  One was about torture and the other about getting his brother killed in a deal gone bad.  I couldn’t watch part of the torture movie it was so well done.  So scary!

I got to see his apartment and hang out a few days.  I met his friends who all seem like cool people.  It was such a short trip, but I’m so glad I went.  I’m still smiling about it a few days later.  I have a feeling I’m going to need to buy a bookcase soon to have some place to put all his movies.  He’s already working on movie sets.  I so better be thanked in his Oscar speeches!

If One More Person Tells Me This Is A Beautiful Miracle, I’m Going To Punch Them In Their Huevos

I know I’ve been rather silent since my big announcement.  Work has been crazy busy lately, plus babies make you insanely tired!  My house is a pit.  I have no food in my fridge.  All I really care about it getting a nap.  Unfortunately, writing does not make that list most days.

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts too.  I do not want to make this space like Babys-R-Us.  I’m always interested when my bloggity friends have kids, and I want to know how it’s going for them, but the rest of the world seems to die away and their blogs become the 24/7 diaper update zone.  I totally understand how that happens now, but I want to try really hard to keep this a fairly neutral space.  I am determined to retain some of my hobbies and interests when Peanut gets here.  We’ll see how much I accomplish of that.  Feel free to remind me if I quit posting about anything but how my feet are swelling and the best price I can find on a onesie.

That being said, I’m doing great health-wise.  I’m tired but have had zero morning sickness.  I feel pretty lucky in the knocked up department.  Most of my problems are coming from just sorting all this out mentally.  I had about a week where I didn’t know if it was weird hormones or the start of prenatal depression or a bad hair day.  I hated this little peanut.  I hated everyone in the world for not cleaning my kitchen for me.  I was sad that the life that I thought I was going to go back to when DH got home is no longer possible.  I was freaked out of my mind thinking about telling my family that I had no self-control when DH got home because really, that’s the only thing “hey, we’re having a deployment baby” sounds like.  Ugh.  It’s been messy.

But I am here and plugging away.  I’m sure I’ll have stories to tell when I come back from the families’ houses next month.  We’re going back for holiday leave and plan on sharing the news with everyone then.  Yikes to the eleventy billionth power.

On a completely unrelated topic, DH and I were planning on going to Spain this coming summer.  Since Peanut has now taken over ALL our 2011 plans, we took the day today and went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo.  I don’t feel like I’m giving anything away by saying it definitely wasn’t Spain, but we had a fantastic time.  Cirque du Soleil always does fantastic shows, and it’s worth every penny to go.  Oh, and I submitted my Master’s thesis for a research award, so I’m pretty excited about that.  Otherwise, life is plugging away.  Hope everyone is doing well.

Residency Reflection: The End

My professor here summed up graduation well the other night.  He said, “I’m a dude (yeah, he was the type of bad ass professor), and I’ve just given birth.  What now?”

Well, I physically have the parts to give birth so it’s not as powerful of a statement, but I’m left with the same feelings.  This program, the lifestyle of complete immersion in academia, my fellow students are all leaving me.  As much as I’ve grumbled about it all, I didn’t think about life after.  It’s sad, and I will miss many parts of it.

I feel a little dumbfounded that the end snuck up on me and can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that someone will actually give me a degree tomorrow.  Like I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out and to have one more challenge to complete.

The rest of me wants to through the biggest party you’ve ever seen because I’m done!

In the spirit of the ending, I wanted to put some order to my thoughts about the whole process.  Coming back to this campus was hard.  I do not have fond memories of being here as an undergrad.  I cried for the first ten minutes I walked back into the same sparse dorm rooms.  The smell, the building, the furniture all sucked me back.  It felt like I’d never left.  Nothing felt alien at all, and I could easily have just been home for the weekend and not gone several years living my life.  It felt like I could never escape the horriblenss, and it would always pull me back down.  And every square inch of this campus screamed that my husband was not here.  This was his place.  His accomplishment.  His uniforms.  His rules.  I was an unwelcome visitor.  I can ignore that he’s not home when I’m busy with my normal life, but coming back to his place makes his absence unavoidable.  I missed his dearly this whole trip.

Going into residency with these thoughts made me so angry.  I didn’t want to be here with these people, especially if they were excited about it.  I was surprised, though, how much fun I had.  I still hate this place.  I always will for all the damage it did to me.  But the people I met here and the bond we shared over sweat and tears and dusty books was something special.  Residency was good, and I’m glad I came.

I have little respect for my undergrad degree.  I did not feel accomplished after high school.  My Masters is a feat though.  I did something amazing.  This Master’s here is hard.  It doesn’t matter what degree program you choose to do, it is challenging and is a leader in the field of online graduate education.  The professors are all fantastically smart people.  They don’t get just anybody to teach here.  They find the best people out there.  They find the most accomplished and the most innovative to sit down in small groups of students and share what they know.  One of my professors here is a regular expert for the History Channel.  He’s one of just a handful of guys who study his field.  He is brilliant.  I had lunch with him and talked about everything from the weather to history to evolution to the state of academia as a whole.  And he cared what lil ol me had to say.  It was an out-of-body experience.  I don’t like this university.  I have a lot of horrible things to say about it.  But I will whole heartedly recommend it’s School of Graduate Studies.  You will have earned your degree by the time you’re finished.

And tomorrow morning I will cross that stage and back into real life again.  See you on the flip side.

Residency Reflection: Socializing

My Masters was done through an online program.  There are a lot of pros and cons to such a program.  I had never done online classes before, and it is a very different style of learning that I needed to get used to.  The university does have a physical location and a residency requirement (which I’m obviously attending as we speak) that does set it apart from solely online universities that offer similar degrees.  I can cover the program itself at another time, but the online nature of the program naturally limits some of the person-to-person interaction that comes with education.  This program in particular highly stresses discussion and virtual communication, so I had lengthy conversations about the coursework and various history topics with my fellow students.  Residency, however, was designed to give an opportunity to put faces to names and extend those conversations to another level.

I had my doubts about it when I got here for several reasons.  I did my undergrad at this same university (a separate post altogether) and in general I struggle with socializing.  I’ve been doing super well with being social while I’ve been here though.  I’ve been talking with lots of people, and I’ve been giddy over the fact they’re all history nerds just like me and actually interested in the same topics.  I’ve been talking about history with these really cool people both my peers and professors who were including me like peers.  It was really nice.  I was having a good time and was super proud of myself for being so social.  I’ve been to pub several nights with a bunch of guys after our last lectures (which was totally amazing–the lectures not the pub) and we discussed so much history.  It was great.

On the first day of class back when I started my Masters we were required to read an article about “traditional” military history and how it’s often unfriendly to women and “soft” history topics like race and gender.  Oh how welcoming for a younger woman without military experience per se.  The program is organized into small groups that you go through the program with, and my particular group had a lot of hobby historians who were retired, very pro-military guys.  My name could be both male and female, and they chose to assume I was a fellow dude.  I chose not to correct them because I didn’t feel totally welcomed as myself, and I was a little worried my ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously.  I guess some of that confusion was thus my fault.

I got here at residency anxious to see what my group thought about my “real” identity.  They were not happy.  They have avoided me this entire week.  They happened to be sitting in front of me during a lecture yesterday in a stadium seating-style lecture hall, and they were writing back and forth in a notebook the whole time.  These dudes are in their 60s and 70s, so it wasn’t very covert.  I could look straight down at everything they were writing.  They were talking about me.  They were not saying nice things.  It really bummed me out for the rest of the lecture.  Seriously, these guys could be my grandfather, and they’re acting like this?  Are my feelings too sensitive because it really hurt.  I guess I assumed they were more embarrassed that they thought I was a guy, so that’s why they were avoiding me.  I went on to the pub and tried to forget about it, but I came back to my room at the end of the night and I had obscene stuff writing and drawn on my white board in the hall.  Nobody else had stuff written, and we weren’t given white board markers either.  I have no proof that these guys did it.  It seems unlikely that such old guys would do such a juvenile act, but what am I supposed to think?

It just really, really sucks because I was so pumped about being out of my shell.  Now I don’t want to talk to anyone.  I was so excited about my field and having such a good time actually doing it with other historians who are excited just like me.  This makes me feel so unwelcome.  I hate these people for saying such mean things, but I hate them more for ruining such a good moment for me.  No one else here has treated me differently or even expressed surprise that I would be interested in the military history field.  It’s all been about my ideas and passion.  In no way do I blame the program for the small minds of these few guys.  My brain can kick their asses any day.  It hurts though, and it makes me appreciate the awesome people I have met even more.

I have talked to a published writer about everything regarding the Civil War, publishing, researching, and writing.  I’ve hung out with a dude from Louisiana and compared struggles over writing our theses.  I’ve met two amazing Canadians who I respect immensely for researching pre-modern history (which poses unique challenges) and staying true to his roots by researching the less popular Canadian history.  It’s not an easy road either direction.  I talked with a total character last night who’s a veteran from Michigan who decided to examine Roman-era stuff, a huge undertaking.  There’s been tons of other people, and I can’t list them all.  The professors here are leaders in their respective concentrations, and I sat at lunch with some yesterday and talked about history and education system and just bull shitted for a while.  It’s an amazing opportunity to be considered peers with these guys.  I’m so glad I am mentally able to take advantage of it and put myself out there and initiat conversations despite pathetic, small minded people.

Residency Reflections: Nerd Alert

I’m at my residency week for graduation, and a lot’s been going on already.  I got here yesterday afternoon, and today was my first full day of classroom-type activities.  I have a lot of thoughts swirling around, and at first I thought I’d reflect on it here, but now I see it’s going to probably be several posts because there’s just so much to cover.

First are my thoughts about the lectures because I just walked out of the building and I have so many ideas that I can’t keep them all in.  You’ve been warned.  It is about to get all sorts of history nerdish up in here, so if it’s not your flavor, visit again another day.  I won’t be offended.

I went to two presentations today.  First was an amazing session about using non-traditional sources (like tapestries, pottery, paintings, illuminated manuscripts) to study medieval military history.  It was given by Professor Kelly DeVries of Loyola College in Maryland.  He is such a cool guy. and you can tell he really enjoys his area of study.  It very much sparked my interest in the area, and I wish I could take more of his classes.  Here’s a short and really unrelated interview he did, but it gives you a flavor of his style (I can’t embed video for crap–sorry).  He is a fricken brilliant historian.

I mentioned that I loved his lecture so much that I was thinking about attending another session of it tomorrow.  One of my fellow military historians called me a history nerd.  Ouch.  Seriously, how nerdy do I have to be to be shunned by other nerds?  I’d be embarrassed if I wasn’t a tad bit proud.  And if you’d sat through Prof. DeVries’ lecture, I think you’d agree with me.  There are more sources on the Iran-Contra Affair in the 1970s even after so much was destroyed than on everything that happened before 1500 combined.  So much is coming to light now, and so little is written down, that the stuff that is emerging is coming from stuff like tapestries and carved religious relics and archeological digs in Europe.  He talked for an hour about what we know about chain mail and armour from the period around the Crusades, 1000-1200ish.  It blew my mind.  I used to do a lot of this type of stuff when I worked in the museum and archives, and I would teach how to do this type of research on a basic level to undergrads.  I loved it.  I would love to do more of this in my career, whether it’s for my own research or helping others learn how for their projects.  It’s so fascinating, and Prof. DeVries does it on a ginormous scale that I can’t even imagine.

The other lecture was about race and gender in military history, specifically about how the program at this university is being developed further to make it truly an innovative program in the history field by focusing on theory.  For non-history folks who are for some crazy reason still reading this post, military history is often sort of segregated from the rest of history.  True, traditional military history is supposed to focus on battles and weapons only.  As such, it tends to look down upon the wider history world that is shifting toward examining history in the context of gender and racial studies.  It creates a lot of conflict, but inroads are being made into military history, and new historians like myself are increasingly incorporating it into their research.  This university wants to be on the forefront of that to prepare students who go on to a PhD program or back into the “regular” history world.

The lecture was a little less thrilling than medieval warfare, I’ve got to admit.  I am an advocate for gender and race studies already though, which furthers labels me as “one of those” in this field.  There’s already only a handful of women who are military historians.  Now I’m a woman who wants to study gender–could I seem any more stereotypical to these old farts?  The professor, Bob Wintermute of Queen’s College (who doesn’t have a spiffy bio page–what’s up with that?), didn’t start out pro-gender and race, but is amazing in the field now.  He modified the version of the course that I took into something way cool, and I’m so jealous that I can’t take the new version.  He made the amazing point that I want to remember forever, that gender and race are completely social constructs that change over time.  That’s the big argument against including them in military history.  But “war and military institutions are at their core social phenomena and organizations, driven and shaped by the social values of the cultures engaged.”  Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  I sort of feel like it’s so obvious that I should be embarrassed that I hadn’t seen it before now.

I’m torn.  On one hand, I like having all the time to come and go, and the small class size created by most people also coming and going fosters an intimate discussion group.  On the other hand, it’s almost too much free time.  I took a week off work and flew up here.  I want to be a tad more active.  There’s five presentations and nine slots.  I’m only interested in three lectures.  That’s not much.  There are other things going on this week, but I would have liked to hear more from my professors.  It’s a great start to the week though.  I was hesitant (more on that later), but today was good.


My cap and gown came in the mail today.  Soooo excited.  One step closer!!


My thesis is done!  I turned it in yesterday and am soooo happy to officially be done with all coursework for this degree.  I thought that having written that many pages, the actual quantity would be less daunting.  I was wrong.  Editing all those pages was still a monumental task that took longer than I anticipated.  But that makes it that much more awesome that I made it through and am totally finished!  All I have left is to attend residency in June where I’ll graduate.  It stinks that I have to wait so long to officially be able to say that I have an MA, but the hard part it over.

I learned, among other things, that a Masters is no joke.  It’s tough.  It’s a lot of very hard work.  It’s frustrating and exhausting.  It will tie you up in mental knots and spit you back out again.  Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared for starting my Masters.  I was a good writer.  I had excellent study habits.  This degree destroyed what I thought I knew though.  It pushed my writing ability past any limits I had and forced me to juggle more work than I thought possible.  Unlike my Bachelors, I feel like I accomplished a monumental task with my Masters.  I worked my butt off and produced an original body of research that can carry its own weight in the world of history.  That’s so totally kick ass.  Man, I am incredibly proud of myself!

Final Review

I finally got my thesis back from my advisor with all the edits.  I’ve been so anxious to get finished with the whole thing because that would mean I’ve completed my MASTERS people!  The whole hiccup with my crappy advisor put me behind, but a cracked rib and medications that made my new advisor too loopy to read added significant delays too.  All that doesn’t matter though because it’s finally back in my hands.  It’s been over two months, and I haven’t looked at it once.   I had my mother edit it too.  She’s a professional editor, and another set of eyes, non-historian ones at that, could always help.  I’m going to sit down over the next couple days and reread it.  I want to compare the comments and see what needs rewriting.

The good news is that my advisor made minimal corrections.  There were very few issues with content and absolutely nothing wrong with the main points of my paper.  I’m feeling confident that I’ve produced an original body of quality research at the graduate level.  My advisor even suggested that my argument could be expanded to include other events in American history, which I feel means that my argument holds water.  Mission accomplished!

As much as I was sick of this topic, looking at the research, and ready to chuck the whole paper out the window by the time I was finished with my draft, I really like what I chose to write about.  I examined the relationship between the postal service and the military that developed to meet the needs of an expanding Western frontier that were not provided by a fiscally conservative federal government.  It sounds so dry, but that’s only because I have to describe fifty pages in one little sentence.  It really is a cool paper, and the research was fascinating.  I see why people get so invovled with their graduate reseach and end up turning it into a book.  I could easily extend the argument to World War I and the American territories overseas.  If someone wanted to pay me for all the research and writing for a book, I’d be over the moon!  Seriously, I would consider retiring because I’d have accomplished everything I could ever want.  Maybe I should set my sights a tad lower and think about finishing my final draft and actually getting to commencement first.

Close Enough To Taste It

Hear that?  It’s the sound of exuberant relief.  I turned in the first draft of my thesis this afternoon.  Sigh…  I am so close to being finished.

I was so excited to turn it in today that I forgot to attach my bibliography.  Oops…hehe.  I called everyone I knew.  No one was available to talk.  Clearly they do not have the same priorities as I do, geeze.  To be perfectly honest, when I’m getting close to a deadline and really engrossed in a paper, hygiene suffers.  I get the basics.  My teeth are always clean.  My clothes and hair–not so much.  It’s nasty.  I’m not proud.  Think of it as part of the creative process.  I took the longest shower I could today to celebrate.  Double sigh…  No wonder people were avoiding me.

I’m really proud of the paper I turned in today.  It’s certainly not the final.  My footnotes and bibliography are still rough, and I know my advisor will have comments and areas for me to smooth out.  The main effort is done though.  My mom is a profession editor, and I’m so lucky because she wants to poor over every comma and pronoun usage.  I’ll repay her with dazzling facts about the Post Office’s reliance on the military during the building of the West.  See, you’re mouth is watering right now in anticipation of more.

It’s alright.  I won’t be offended if you’re actually looking for an exit.  I know that there only a few people nerdy enough to be intrigued by that statement.  It’s a lonely life.  Hehe.

My brother asked me a few months ago about my topic.  We chatted.  He attempted to convince how dull it was.  I told him I’d give him a copy of the final version for Christmas since he seemed so intrigued.  He told me he would give me a gift equally as valuable if I tried it.  Somehow I don’t think he was envisioning priceless gems or solid gold toothpicks like I was.

I’m going to give it a day or two and then dive back in.  I need to start polishing the footnotes and finalizing my bibliography.  I kind of like that part, so I not quite looking forward to it but I’m not dreading it either.  In a few days, maybe by next Monday, my advisor will have comments.  The first hurdle is past though.

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